The lifestyle of a college student is unique: During these four years we spend all our time surrounded by people our own age; students do not usually make much money while in school (but we do have some!); and the social and financial situations of college students make us a hard audience to appeal to as a brand, but if you do reach and connect with us, we’ll likely appreciate you for years to come. Going into my last year of college, here are the insights I can offer to marketers on the most effective ways a brand can market to students.
Offer Deals and Discounts
On Monday nights, one of the pizzerias in my college town serves slices and beers for only one dollar. Despite there being a dozen or so other places to eat in town, students will wait in a crowded line if it means they spend little money. Since our financial expenses are more than our incomes as students, we are always in search of the best deals and prices.
Most of my peers have had some form of social media accounts since middle school. Opening our phone screens to scroll through our social media feeds while walking to class is now just second nature. As a result, our attention is already on our social media so it is a smart place to get a paid advertisement noticed by students.
In addition to placing advertisements on social media, it is also beneficial for a brand to have social media accounts to interact with customers. When social media first began it was a way to connect with friends and see what they were doing. Now my Instagram feed is a combination of posts from both my friends and my favorite brands. Social media is no longer just a way to socialize but also a way to market. If a brand has its own media accounts, it is keeping up with the trends and college students will see it as hip. Since we are so familiar with connecting through these outlets we are more likely to relate to brands that are also using them.
Hire Some Brand Ambassadors
Youth-savvy companies often hire students to be ambassadors for their brands. These students will set up tables on campus to offer information on a product to other students. This is a convenient and easy way for students to land a job without having to travel far. It is an equally a great opportunity for brands to share their names and brand messages to college students with the use of familiar faces.
College campuses host informational events for students throughout the school year. If your brand can set up a table at an event, it is a great way to expose your name and present information directly to students. Visits to schools also give representatives from brands a chance to gain feedback from students and create more personalized relations with them.
Deliver Great Customer Service and Product Quality in the First Place
Life on a college campus means constant contact with other students. The reputation of a brand will spread quickly from student to student, making “word of mouth” an especially important and powerful concept on college campuses. It is important for a brand to have positive interactions with customers for positives messages to be shared.
Make Your Product Easy-to-Access
As a freshman in college, I did not have a car on campus which made it hard to get what I needed. Whenever I needed something I had to figure out how I could get it to my dorm room in the quickest and cheapest way. The easier a product is to access, the more likely it is to be snapped up by students.
Giveaways are a good way to encourage students to engage with and test a brand. Often brands will ask for participants in giveaway offers or contests to post to their own social media pages with a specific hashtag to enter a contest. This means customers will use their own social media pages for the promotion of a brand, which adds consumer credibility and is yet another form of the “word of mouth” marketing I mentioned earlier.
Promote Your Product/Service in a Publication Targeting the College-aged Demographic
My first year of college, I wrote for an online publication with content specifically directed towards women in college. The smartest brands routinely sent products to the student editors of the publication, encouraging the editorial staff of students to do written reviews of the products supplied. Not surprisingly, readers liked to see reviews that came from other students because those assessments tended to be honest and addressed real concerns students had.
Acknowledge the Stand-out Moments
College graduations, spring breaks, and final exam weeks are all unique events specific to being a student in college. These events provide opportunities for marketers to promote products relevant to these times in our lives. In other words, connect with us at these pivotal times, and there’s a good chance will prefer your brand during ordinary times too!
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